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EN_WS12_Cert_Purp258_2_rgbThis summer I spent a lot of time getting our main product SiteFactory CMS Certified by Microsoft. As a Gold Certified Microsoft Partner, we must provide proof of excellence and this certification is our best proof.

There is a difference between Product Certification and Partner Certification. What we have done now is a Gold level Certification of SiteFactory CMS for Windows Server 2012. It is just one of Microsoft’s requirements for our company to maintain the Gold level Certification Partnership with Microsoft.

The Gold level is the highest level of Product Certification for Windows Server 2012 and is only achieved for applications that passes the following requirements:

  • Support for Microsoft Hyper-V
  • Support for non-UI configurations of Windows Server 2012.

The Certification Tests has been conducted on a Virtual Windows Server 2012 machine running on a Windows Server 2012 Datacenter host. The virtual server has been running in “Server Core” during testing, which means that there hasn’t been a graphical interface installed on the server.

You can read the proof of certification here.

What this means for us and our customers

We have developed a software product that is so rock solid that is passes Microsoft’s extensive tests.  Our product works in any Windows Server 2012 Configuration. So our customers knows that they have made a wise decision when choosing SiteFactory CMS. This achievement puts us in front of many of our competitors.

The next step

Trust me when I say we won’t stop here. We will continue to work hard and keep certifying our products along with Microsoft’s server releases. Next up is certification for Windows Server 2012 R2 which will be released in October and we’re also looking at certification for SQL Server 2012.

Today we finalized SiteFactory CMS version 5.0.8 which brings full support for the upcoming Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10.

Windows 8 will be released on October 26. We’ve had access to the final version for about two months now, and we’ve been working on making SiteFactory CMS fully functional with the included browser Internet Explorer 10.

We will begin a controlled distribution of the new version today, using our Update Service. This is the 68th update since we released SiteFactory CMS 5.0 in early November last year.

Closing comments

Mindbite has always been dedicated to testing new technology in its early stages to be able to bring working software to its customers. As with earlier versions of Windows and Internet Explorer we once again deliver working updates before Microsoft’s release to the consumers.

Today we released a new update for SiteFactory CMS. The version number is now 5.0.7 and the major feature of this update is support for QR Codes.

The QR Code Support has been built into the SiteFactory CMS Core and gives our developers the ability to generate QR Code programmatically. With very little effort and a blink of an eye the QR Code Generator has processed the Url and returned a Byte Array containing the QR Code Image. So now, SiteFactory CMS is ready to use QR Code Support in any customer solution.

The QR Code Generator has been added to our vast Utilities Class Library, which you can read more about here.

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We have also created a new Properties View where our customers can view and download a QR Code Image for any page in their SiteFactory CMS website.

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What is a QR Code?

You can read a lot about it over here.

Native support in Windows Phone 7.5

If you own a Windows Phone, you can use Bing Vision which is included in the OS to read QR Codes. On other platforms you may need to download special apps to read QR Codes.

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About two weeks ago we released a new major version of SiteFactory CMS. One of the main features is “Isolated Modules”.

The Isolated Modules functionality is a great leap from our traditional way of developing modules. They work more like “Apps” in modern cell phones. They can utilize all functionality that exists in the core library, and other parts of the system can read information from each module.

What is Isolated Modules?

Every module has its own configuration file. The configuration file can be filled with module specific settings. It also defines the appearance of the module in SiteFactory CMS. The module can also contain CSS- and JScript files. When the module is loaded into the system, it collects and implements any found CSS- and/or JScript files.

Web forms and translation resources are also packaged within the module and are structured as defined in the configuration files. Since each module has its own translation resources there can never be a collision between system translation and module translation. An Isolated Module can easily be packaged and deployed in any SiteFactory CMS implementation. Since every part of the module is very structured it’s easy to write deployment scripts. From the Developer Central in SiteFactory CMS we can manage every Isolated Module and deploy them on the site.

When developing an Isolated Module, you often need to get configuration values, translation resource values and other module specific data. So we developed a base class that every module can inherit from. The class knows exactly which module the developer is working with and therefor it’s easy to work with the module.

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Some examples

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GetConfigurationValue reads from the specific module’s configuration file.

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GetTranslationValue reads from the module’s translation resource. The module is aware of the current user’s culture and picks the value from the correct translation file based on that culture.

These are just two of many module-related functions and methods that the system provides to the developers.

Widgets can also be developed for each module and the widgets get the same possibilities as the Web Forms, to read its module specific information. When adding a widget to a module, the Dashboard automatically discovers it and makes it available for the users.

Why do we call it Isolated Modules?

As you have read, this kind of module comes with their own forms, css, scripts, settings and translation resources. Even though they can consume assets from the entire site, they are also very isolated. A module cannot ever read information from another module by accident. For instance, when a translation resource is requested in a module, the system only looks in that particular module.

Security

Security settings are configured in each module and these settings are read by the system so that the administrators can allow or prohibit users from accessing whole or parts of the module. By default, only administrators can access modules.

Closing comments

The way we develop modules in SiteFactory CMS has always been one of our most powerful features. With the Isolated Modules we made them even more powerful. Existing modules at out customers' sites are not to be considered out-dated, they are only developed in a different way.

The new functionality gives the developer a more manageable way to develop modules as every asset is placed in a better structure. An isolated structure.

Yesterday we officially released a new major version of SiteFactory CMS. It was announced at a seminar a few weeks ago, when the attendants got their hands on the new version.

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Main focus when developing the new version

In this version we focused on scalability, speed optimization and providing an even greater user experience.

Scalability

Mindbite Core Foundation Server, which is the core system that SiteFactory CMS is built upon, is extremely scalable. By using special configuration files we can inject new views at any location in the system to extend the functionality in a customer’s installation. All added content and functionality automatically connects with the core security system so the owner can apply permissions for the new content.

This is however not a new feature, it has in fact been there since the first version (and improved in several versions back). In SiteFactory CMS 5.0 we improved the scalability by creating Isolated Modules. The Isolated Modules works like Apps in modern cell phones. They can utilize all functionality in the system but they have their own configuration files for settings and security. They also have their own resources and translation files. Widgets can be developed and packaged with Isolated Modules to bring information to the Dashboard.

Speed optimization

In every new version of SiteFactory CMS we try our best to improve its performance. This time we found a new way to optimize the public website. In most cases the loading time was improved to twice as fast as before. In one scenario it improved the loading time by 1600 %.

Greater user experience

Our focus has always been to provide a user-friendly UI/UX. SiteFactory CMS 5.0 has got a complete overhaul in both the interface and the structure. A new menu system gives the user a better overview over the system. It’s both easier to work with and to find what you’re looking for. These changes also gives us the ability to create even larger customer systems.

The first thing the users see when signing in is the brand new dashboard. For the moment all installations comes with six widgets displaying information about the system and their websites. Further widgets will be deployed later on. Widgets can also be developed for each customer.

Deployment

All SiteFactory CMS customers will, as always, get all these new features.

We will start deploying SiteFactory CMS 5.0 to customer sites this week. The new version will be deployed to every site automatically through our Update Service.

Closing comments

You can expect further posts with more detailed information about the new version.

Last week I installed Windows Server 8 Developer Preview on Hyper-V. Installation was smoother than ever, but I can’t say that I liked the UI/UX. When bringing the Home Screen and removing the Start Menu on a server OS, I think you’ve gone to far. I seriously hope Microsoft will reconsider this, at least for the server. Luckily there is Server Core, so you won’t have to see the graphical mess.

One of my main motives for this installation (besides curiosity) was to test IIS 8 and see if SiteFactory CMS works on it.
Test results: It works great!

Screenshots from installation, initialization, management and IIS8 with SiteFactory CMS

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Closing comments

Michael Johansson, if you read this, I guess you just puked all over your keyboard :-)

Just a few days ago Microsoft released Windows Server 8 Developer Preview on MSDN. This morning I installed it on our Hyper-V server. One of the new things in Windows Server 8 is IIS 8 which is a new version of the web server we host all SiteFactory CMS sites on.

Even though Windows Server 8 and IIS 8 hasn’t even gone in to the beta phase yet, SiteFactory CMS works like a charm. We will of course test SiteFactory CMS on every release before RTM, so that we can fix any possible issues in upcoming releases.

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When purchasing a website today, choosing a CMS over the traditional static website, is pretty standard. When choosing a Content Management System, there are numerous guides on what to require. One feature that I would like to point out as one of the most important is Automatic updates (or at least a service contract that includes updates).

If you don’t recieve technical updates to your website, it will fall behind in several aspects, like Search Engine Optimization, browser compatibility and various web standards. You will ultimately end up having to invest in an expensive major update or change website provider. And this is how it worked before. But it shouldn’t when it’s 2011.

At Mindbite we’ve been building Content Management Systems for over 10 years, and in 2005 (six years ago) we formalized our solutions into one product, called SiteFactory CMS. At that point we also started selling it with a service contract that binds us to deliver updates to the product. That means that every customer that invested in SiteFactory 1.0 and later has been receiving updates to their websites. And no customer with a service contract has ever had to pay extra for an update.

Last year we took a huge step when we decided to develop our Update Service. The service was introduced upon the release of SiteFactory CMS 4.0 and it provides automatic updates to every SiteFactory CMS 4.x website. Since November 2010 we have pushed out over 50 updates only to SiteFactory CMS 4. Every update differs in size and is spanned between simple bug fixes up to major features like MultiSites.

When Internet Explorer 9 was released we pushed out an update making SiteFactory CMS 4 compatible with it in a very short time. If our customers had chosen a different CMS provider without a service contract or automatic updates, they would likely have had to pay for this compatibility update.

If I were to invest in a CMS, I would certainly require Automatic Updates, and so should you. At the very least you should require a service contract which includes updates. Any other offer should not be taken seriously. Would you buy a phone or an operating system without ever getting updates that makes it a better product? I wouldn’t.

Screenshots from different versions of SiteFactory CMS

To give you an idea of how much a Content Management System changes over time, check out the screenshots of some of our SiteFactory CMS versions. Over the last six years we have released hundreds of new features empowering our customers websites. This is the way we work at Mindbite. Our passion is to deliver great features and updates to our customers.

SiteFactory CMS 1.2.4 from 2006 (screenshot taken in 2007)

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SiteFactory CMS 2.0 beta from 2006

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SiteFactory CMS 2.1.1 from 2007

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SiteFactory CMS 3.0 beta from 2008

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SiteFactory CMS 3.0 from 2008

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SiteFactory CMS 4.0 from 2010

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SiteFactory CMS 4.2 (build 4052), which is our latest release

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Today we marked SiteFactory CMS 4.2 as code-complete. The final tests were completed successfully just a few minutes ago and the last step is to package the update and distribute it on the Mindbite Update Service.

Some of the major features in this new version include

  • Support for any language content
    i. e. Chinese, Polish, Russian etc.
  • PageType Views
    This feature extends PageTypes with customized views that connects with the existing views in SiteFactory CMS. For example, a developer can set up forms that are only displayed if you are working with a page that inherits from a specific PageType.
  • Thumbnail Cache
    Every thumbnail in a Photo Gallery are now cached physically for fast access and rendering. So if you have a Photo Gallery on you site, it will render extremely fast.
  • New version of RadEditor (Q2 2011)
    Better compatibility with web browsers. Minor bug fixes.
  • Background saving
    When working with the content of a Page’s Work Copy, the content is saved automatically in the background.
    Note that background saving is not active when editing published pages.
  • Better versioning
    Managing Page Versions has been made much easier. You can now preview an earlier version in a full website view. This means that you can see the versioned content inside the actual website design.
  • API Framework
    This is one of the biggest features in this release. With the API Framework our developers can create custom API’s for the customers’ solutions. The framework contains all necessary technology for authentication and handling methods.
    So building a new API for a customer takes no longer time than to write the actual customer specific code.

We have also squashed some bugs and improved loading times and stability.

Release schedule

Since this is such a large update we won’t release it today (because seriously, how many releases do you see on a Friday afternoon?). Instead I will focus on a release early next week.

As always these days, the update will be brought to all SiteFactory CMS 4 websites by our excellent Update Service.

Have a great weekend!

It's been a long time since my last blog post, mostly due to chasing my daughter around the house, beaches and cities. And also, for the last three weeks I've had vacation.

It has however been, not only a relaxing summer, but also a time for nerdiness. The last month I've evaluated several new and upcoming product releases. Amongst them are Windows Phone 7 "Mango", iOS 5 and Mac OS X Lion. My closest friends know how curious I am regarding testing of beta products (often too early than healthy), so this is a very exciting time for me. One product I've tested for some time is Office 365, which was released last week.

For a couple of months I've been testing Windows Phone 7, which is quite the delight. The "Mango" beta (which Microsoft prevents me from discuss in detail) is a major lift for the newborn Phone OS. Many of its features are locked down and/or limited so I expect a new beta release in weeks or up to a month max.

It's not only the major companies who has new stuff up its sleeves. A lot is cooking at Mindbite as well, and we have several upcoming releases involving web and phones later this summer. With only one week left of my vacation it's soon time to continue working on some really cool solutions and in the next couple of weeks I will present some actual details about them.

Have a great summer!